The instant online symbol of global support for Paris after last week’s attacks was a roughly rendered peace symbol with an Eiffel Tower in the middle of it.
The French designer Jean Jullien sketched it as soon as he heard the news of the atrocity. He called it “Peace for Paris,” and it immediately became a sensation on social media.
It’s success is a sign of the times.
We have become experts at treacly online mourning. We take grotesque atrocities and launder them into trite symbols and slogans that are usually self-congratulatory and, of course, wholly ineffectual.
The 19th-century author William Dean Howells once said, “Yes, what the American public wants is a tragedy with a happy ending.”
On social media, the happy ending is the widely shared and tweeted image or hashtag.
After the slaughter at the offices of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hedbo earlier this year, it was “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie.”
It was a well-intentioned expression of solidarity, so long as you overlooked the absurd presumption of it.
You are Charlie? Oh, OK. Then draw a sketch of Muhammad and post it online. Better yet, do it over and over again, until you get constant threats and your office is fire-bombed, just as a warm-up.
No, you aren’t Charlie (for that matter, Charlie isn’t even Charlie anymore — it’s given up on mocking Islam for understandable safety reasons).